World Backup Day : what would happen if your data suddenly disappeared?

This 31st of March is the World Backup Day. A special day to remember that we might lose our precious data… If we don’t take care of them.

It is truly amazing how many new software services and devices are available to small business owners today. Accounting, human resources, and customer management software are all readily available and, in some cases, may not even need to be physically installed within your offices – they can be used completely online. Even better, you and most of your employees have powerful smart phones or tablets and can travel the world with large amounts of data in their pockets or purses. But with all these new services and devices designed to help your company do more, how often do you think about safeguarding the life blood of your business – your data?

The World Backup Day is great time to take a moment to ask yourself this question. The organizers have chosen the day before April Fool’s day and perhaps this is an interesting way to encourage us to really think about how foolish our business might look if we are not prepared to face the inevitable hardware failure or data theft.

Now the word “inevitable” might seem a little strong at first, but take a moment to consider the following statistics from the World Backup Day organizers:

  • more than 1 in 10 computers world-wide will be infected with a malware that impacts data integrity,
  • over 200.000 smart phones will be lost, damaged or stolen,
  • only 1/4 people will regularly backup their data.

Add new threats like ransom-ware and the volatility of the still nascent software-as-a-service (SaaS) business environment, and the need to protect your data and prevent business interruptions now becomes clearer.

1st question: where are my data?

A small business owner needs to wear many hats and keeping track of the security of your data may fall very low on your list of things to do each day. However, you do need to be aware that a loss of data can occur in several different ways. One step that you can take to begin planning for better data security is to create a simple list of the most typical problems that can occur and then begin writing down the areas where you believe you might be at risk. For example, most people are familiar with hardware failures – like when your hard drive suddenly stops working. Begin your planning by cataloging where your data is physically stored. Do you use a specialized storage computer (called a server) or do you rely on a network of individual computers?

Now add data storage locations outside of your company to this list. If you already use a cloud storage provider to store your data, what types of files get backed up there and how often? How do they handle their hardware failures? Don’t forget to include any SaaS providers, such as your client management system application.

Next, consider software-based failures or attacks. For example, what would happen if a virus was unintentionally introduced into your network? Keep in mind that some malwares are designed to steal your data while others – called ransomware – simply deny you access to your data until you pay the ransom (without any guarantee to recover your data). Having an anti-virus solution is a good start, but these programs cannot bring back your data if it becomes corrupted or locked away.

1st answer: they are moving too much…

Finally, assess what would happen if your company’s hardware or devices are stolen. Theft of your devices almost always implies a loss of, or at least exposure of, business sensitive data. If the most recent copy of your client contact list is stored on a smart phone, what happens if that phone is stolen? If a disgruntled employee decides to remove a desktop computer from the office one weekend, what would happen to your business on Monday morning?

Once you have finalized the risks to your business data, you should then take a close look at what data is critical to your daily operations and what data is not. We all know the expression “time is money” and it is natural to think that you just need to make a copy of everything. While this might save you time, it may also cost you more money. By taking the time to identify the different types of data that you have and where it is located, you can make better financial decisions as to what data needs to be protected and what data would not be relevant if lost. Client contracts are important – pictures of the company’s office party may not be.

Cloud without storm?

Now that you have catalogued your risks and prioritized your data, the final step is to decide how best to protect it. Most experts recommend storing at least one copy of your critical data in a place separate from your physical office location and this is why cloud storage solutions have grown in popularity. This insures that your data is stored separately from your place of business and can be accessed by any device at any time. But is this solution 100% perfect? It is always a good idea to look closely at the cloud provider’s service agreement. You may find that they have limits and conditions on recovering your data when they experience a failure.

After you have taken the time to formally assess how your data could be stored, you may determine that a cloud-based storage provider may not be the most effective and cost efficient solution for your business. We recommend that you have two resources in place for storing your critical data; one cloud based and the other a local storage solution. While this may require that you buy a small hard drive or server to store your data, this method does provide you with a second layer of insurance against data loss. Usually these types of hardware come with easy-to-use software and do not require specialized knowledge. Many businesses assign the collection and storage of data to a reliable team member and, as your business grows, you will sleep better at night knowing that someone in the company is keeping track of this critical business asset.

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